If you have a UL fan in your life (and chances are you do…and if you don’t, meet one. Just like every conservative should have a liberal friend and vice versa, every UK fan should have one UL fan…if for no other reason than as an act of charity), then chances are that you have heard them complain that they were “jobbed” by the referees in Rupp Arena on Saturday. They of course are following the lead of their coach, who complained that the referees were “affected” by the Rupp Arena crowd and who took special offense to Tony Greene, who has refereed a number of UK-UL games. This led a writer on the prominent Louisville site, “Card Chronicle to suggest UL lost because of the officials in what may be the worst attempt at a logical article I have ever read in my life (a shame, because the site’s Editor Mike Rutherford is a tremendous writer who has to be shaking his head right now). This refrain is familiar and loud. The great Cardinals could not have lost because, oh I don’t know, they have no frontcourt play, shot the ball poorly and had no answer when Kentucky lost its best player for an entire half. No instead, the problem must have been with the cheating officials at dirty Rupp Arena.
Now while we all know this is silly, they don’t. So one of their own has had to say it for them. UL radio color guy Bob Valvano took to his Facebook page to diffuse the argument and asks UL fans to “try to be smarter than a turnip.” He writes:
Let’s start with the officials. Mark Whitehead, Tony Greene, and Doug Sirmons are three of THE best officials in college basketball.
They have all recently worked final fours, Greene one of the officials in the Louisville national championship win over Michigan just last year.
They aren’t assigned by UK, or by the SEC.
They did not unfairly influence the game. Sorry. They didn’t. They would have NO rational reason to do any such thing.
Try to be smarter than a turnip. Why would they risk their ENTIRE professional careers to cheat in this game?
Now, did they miss some calls? Of course they did! They do EVERY game. Basketball is BY FAR the hardest game to officiate…by far. Its not even close!
So when you cite isolated calls you’re not making any valid point.
The question is, are they in position? Are they trying to be consistent? Do they make sense?
They do and they did.
Fans cite the palming calls on Louisville. Because it is an unusual call, people got upset.
They miss the point…it was the right call, AND the official had warned the players involved earlier to be careful they were getting dangerously close to palming the ball. That’s good officiating.
The players ignored him. They called it…Rick Pitino nodded his head (if you noticed), telling his players it was a good call.
You cannot ignore the officials.
And of course he is correct. Blaming the officials is absurd. Kentucky was the better team on the court and controlled the game. There were missed calls (I thought a few tough ones went against UL early, but some late kept the Cards in the game), but they didn’t decide the outcome. The better team on Saturday won, and that is how it should be. If the teams play again, the result may be different. However the officials were not the root cause of the Card loss. Rick Pitino disagreed of course, but he has disagreed multiple times with officials (see this article, where he complains that the NCAA Tournament officials aren’t enough like the Big East officials and this article, where he laughably called the officials too “arrogant”, a trait that showcases Mr Humble has as little self-awareness as he does truth-telling ability.) As with most everything else, the fans that complain are following the lead of their coach, who has never met a loss that he couldn’t blame on others. Thankfully, Mr. Valvano disagreed.
To be fair, Valvano did not only write on the officials. He also took a thinly veiled shot at me. This is normal for Bob, as he does an afternoon radio show in Louisville listened to by literally tens of people, and when his best segment is not airing (the great “Whats in the Paper”, where he literally reads…what…is…in…the…paper. Riveting radio), he often takes shots at the “UK guy” who yaps too much. Valvano did not like the criticism I made of Pitino “skipping” his press conference and wrote:
As for UK fans who want to gripe about Pitino meeting the press outside his locker room instead of the podium…puh-leeze! There is a guy who caters to the haters in the local media (I use that word media loosely in this case), and he helps drive the hate bus. I know he emphatically reported this. But I have been to about 300 NBA games probably…EVERY one the media covers EXACTLY like Rick Pitino met with the media in Rupp. Exactly the same way. Every single game. So stop with the “he didn’t meet the media” thing. I know you love to hate, and create bad blood where it doesn’t exist, but it just annoys the rest of us with half a brain. He met the media. He talked. He gave UK the credit they deserved for a very good win. Just stop the bullshit.
While I am glad Mr. Valvano has covered “300 NBA games” (that is a lot of games Bob…congrats!), it has nothing to do with the point. At COLLEGE games at Kentucky and Louisville, the coach comes to a podium and addresses the media after the game. In NBA games, the media may do it differently, but the last time I checked, Rupp Arena was not the NBA. Pitino doesn’t do this in Lexington because he doesn’t want to take questions from the media not from his home city. So even though probably 100 media members were waiting for him at the podium, he stood outside his locker room where only a few reporters could speak to him (all guys who mysteriously knew he would be there and are the handpicked friends/co-authors of the coach) and he can thus avoid any tough questions. Case in point? Even though Pitino played Akoy Agua, a player that he previously said was “suspended indefinitely” and yet missed ZERO games, not one reporter asked him about the change of heart. Why didn’t they ask? Because those who would (such as UK guys or even neutrals like Lachlan Mclean) were stuck in the other room waiting at the podium.
Still yet, even with the shot at me, I applaud Mr. Valvano. In between the Candy Crush games and arguments over Duck Dynasty, his Facebook post did do one thing well. It told UL fans that those who complained were acting with the IQ of turnips. When one of your own says that…well, that should probably end the discussion.